Safety ratings explained

It's easy to think that all cars are safe - but the truth is many new features and technologies make your chance of surviving a crash or avoiding serious injury much higher. UCSR and ANCAP safety ratings are one of the best measures of vehicle safety. So before you jump into your search, find out exactly what safety ratings mean for you.

Used Car Safety Rating (UCSR)

A UCSR is calculated from data on injury outcomes of people involved in real world crashes across Australia and New Zealand. The Monash University Accident Research Centre uses over 7.5 million police reports from 1987 to 2014 to award a car with a 1 to 5 star score. The 5-star system reflects your relative risk of being killed or admitted to hospital in the event of a crash. The ratings are not about the risk of being involved in the crash in the first place, which is generally determined by a range of factors including driver behaviour, vehicle condition and the road environment. The more stars a car has, the lower the risk of death or serious injury in the event of a crash.

As vehicle safety improves, UCSR ratings are reassessed each year to reflect these improvements in safety technology. This means that the latest UCSR ratings are always accurate and up-to-date.

Why don’t all used vehicles have a UCSR?

To be given an accurate UCSR a vehicle needs to be involved in a large number of crashes. While 95% of all vehicles have been rated, 5% of vehicles do not have sufficient crash data to be rated. Models that have been involved in a small number of crashes, or are less than three years old, are therefore ineligible to be given a UCSR. This means that some vehicles do not have a UCSR.

Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP)

An ANCAP rating is based on a car’s performance in a range of simulated crashes, fitment of vital safety features and crash avoidance technologies. For new models, it is the best marker of safety. During these various tests ANCAP measures the forces crash test dummies undergo during a crash. Once the data is collected, it can then be assessed to determine what injuries a person would sustain in a similar situation on the road. ANCAP safety ratings use a 1 to 5-star system. These star ratings indicate the level of safety a vehicle provides for occupants and pedestrians in the event of a crash. These ratings also demonstrate a vehicle’s ability to avoid a crash. To achieve a maximum 5-star rating, a vehicle must perform to the highest levels across all crash tests and assessments.

ANCAP is constantly updating and reviewing the safety requirements across all star rating levels. So, the more recently the vehicle was rated, the more accurate the safety rating is considered to be.

Why don’t all new vehicles have an ANCAP rating?

Because of the costs associated with supplying vehicles to be crashed, only 92% of new cars are tested. Additionally, some car models that have multiple variant models may not have an ANCAP rating for each one. This means that some newer vehicles will not have an ANCAP rating, or a USCR.

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